Assistance for those renting their homes
For more information on your rights and negotiating with your landlord or local authority in relation to your rent, you can visit our page on Housing (INSERT LINK).
With the situation changing on a daily basis, the government are yet to announce a finalised plan for citizens who rent their homes.
You may be entitled to benefits, especially if you have been made redundant, are forced to take unpaid leave due to the outbreak or have had a significant reduction in your working hours.
Please see our “Benefits” section for more information (INSERT LINK)
Three-month payment holidays
Some banks and other lenders are offering three-month payment holidays for those impacted by the coronavirus outbreak. Consumers suffering from a loss of income or ill-health are advised to contact their bank or lender in the first instance.
In real terms, a payment holiday will mean the payment which would have been made over the three-month term is divided across the remaining payments for the mortgage. This would mean an increase in monthly payments. Some lenders are offering options to switch rates or extend the mortgage itself.
Mortgage providers have advised that these options will not have an impact upon credit ratings if agreed with them in advance, and all agreed payments are not missed.
For more information on your rights and negotiating with your mortgage provider if you are experiencing financial difficulty or the threat of repossession, you can visit our page on Housing (INSERT LINK).
The government are yet to announce support that will be made available when dealing with council tax in relation to the coronavirus pandemic.
Those who can, should continue paying their council tax as normal. Anyone who falls behind with their council tax payments (or who believes they may fall into this category at some point in the future) are advised to communicate with the finance team at their local authority who may be able to offer solutions such as repayment plans or alternative methods of payment.
The Government Hardship Fund announced in the recent budget may be used to help those deemed as ‘economically vulnerable’. However, the specific levels of support that will be made available for council tax hardship are yet to be announced.
Energy companies are obligated to make considerations for vulnerable consumers when dealing with energy debt and maintaining consumers’ supply.
Citizens may be unable to meet energy bills due to a reduction in their income or the physical inability to top up prepayment meters due to social isolating.
Communicating any difficulties with your energy supplier immediately is vital in ensuring that your energy supply is maintained throughout the coming weeks / months.
1. Prepayment Meters
Many energy companies are offering to mail out top-up keys and cards to consumers who are impacted through self-isolation or those experiencing other problems. When this is not possible, some companies are also sending engineers to top up the meters for vulnerable consumers.
Topping up through smart meters can be achieved over the phone and online by contacting the supplier. This method also makes it easier for suppliers to provide help when required, such as affordability issues in topping up. Suppliers can temporarily turn prepayment meters into credit meters, which means it is less likely that consumers will go off-supply.
The advice provided by energy suppliers is to top up a little more than necessary if possible. This will ensure that if access issues occur, the supply will be maintained.
2. Credit Meters
Those who have credit meters (usually paid monthly or quarterly by bill) remain in a similar position to those on prepayment. Energy companies are reviewing issues with energy on a case-by-case basis during the coronavirus outbreak and are still bound by Ofcom definitions of vulnerable consumers, working to ensure their needs are met.
Consumers that are experiencing difficulties in paying for energy or who face losing power are advised to contact their energy supplier immediately to resolve any issues as soon as these become apparent.
Attending Benefit Appointments
Those who can attend their usual appointments for benefits should continue to do so, unless informed otherwise by the offices conducting them.
Face-to-face medical appointments for assessment of benefits have been cancelled by the government
Those who are already claiming benefits that cannot attend appointments should call the office that make payments of benefits and / or login and update their online journal to ensure that benefits are not sanctioned and continue to be paid as normal.
The most vital thing to remember is communication. Anyone claiming benefits must keep in contact with the office paying these benefits, regardless of the situation.
Self-Employment, Unemployment & Benefits
Redundancy, reduction in hours or unpaid leave are now very real considerations for many people due to the outbreak of coronavirus. The government are currently discussing support that can be offered to those impacted by the outbreak, however, there are already benefits and support in place that may help in the short term.
Those forced to take time out of work due to the coronavirus outbreak who won’t receive pay whilst off may be entitled to income through claiming benefits.
Additionally, citizens in this position may be entitled to submit claims for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) or Universal Credit, even if they are receiving minimal income or other benefits are currently being paid. This includes those who are self-employed.
More information on these benefits and how to apply are available at www.gov.uk/browse/benefits
Credit cards, Loans and Overdrafts
Like mortgages, lenders on credit cards, personal loans and overdrafts have agreed with the government to offer assistance to consumers who are experiencing financial difficulty due to the coronavirus.
Some banks and credit card companies are currently allowing emergency increases in credit limits, repayment holiday or the option of waiving fees and charges for non or late payment.
Due to recent changes in legislation, banks and lenders were told that they must show overdraft charges as a percentage or APR. This change in overdraft procedures is still likely to go ahead in April.
Anyone experiencing financial hardship due to credit cards, loans or overdrafts should contact their bank or lender as soon as possible for clarification of their situation and to discuss viable solutions.